Iraqi National Congress – INC

Some of the main Iraqi opposition forces have united in 1992 in the Iraqi National Congress (INC) with the aim to topple the current Iraqi regime. The creation of the INC opened the way for official oppositions contacts with Washington and London.

Meeting in Vienna in June 1992, the INC elected a National Assembly of 87 members. This was expanded to 234 members at Salahuddin, in northern Iraq in October 1992, when the INC organized the first unified opposition meeting on Iraqi soil since the Baath party seized power in Baghdad in 1968. Following this meeting, the INC established its headquarters in Salahuddin with its external base in London.

The National Assembly also elected a 26 members Executive Council chaired by Ahmed Chalabi to manage the daily operations of the INC. The membership of this Executive Council comprises a large spectrum of regional and political groups in the Iraqi opposition, representing groups based in Iraq, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Syria, and other countries in the region and Europe.

The INC suffered two major blows in 1995 and 1996.

In 1995, growing discontent over the leadership of Ahmed Chalabi, once seen as a kind of shadow prime minister, led to a wave of resignations of member groups, including the Islamic Al-Dawa (« the Islamic call »), the Iraqi Democratic Union and the Arab Nationalist Party. The leadership of Mr. Chalabi is controvertial, notably because of his lack of knowledge of the situation on the ground (born in 1949, he has left Iraq since 1956) and because of the secrecy surrounding the INC accounts which, most believe, are funded by Washington and other Western and Arab governments and not by Iraqis. On the other hand, charges are still standing against him in the Jordanian courts after the collapse of the Petra Bank which he chaired and which in the early eighties bankrupted thousands of depositors in Jordan and Lebanon.

In August 1996, clashes between the two main Kurdish mouvements in Iraq – both supposedly members of the INC – devastated its presence in the north of the country when the KDP got Baghdad’s assistance against the PUK to seize Arbil, the main administrative center of the region. This resulted in the evacuation by the US of over 6,000 local aid workers and INC figures from the area.

Following these problems inside the INC, there are some reports that the US administration is switching support to another exile group, the INA, Iraqi National Accord, based in Amman.